Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co., didn’t mince words when asked about the company’s legal battle with Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
Disney has sued DiSantis after the governor took steps to assert control over the special district where Disney World is located.
“This is about one thing and one thing only, and that is retaliation against us for taking a position on pending legislation,” Iger said after being asked about the situation during Disney’s earnings call Wednesday. “We believe that in taking that position we are merely exercising our right to free speech.”
Iger said that Disney contributes to Florida tourism, is one of the state’s biggest employers with above-minimum wage jobs and pays $1.1 billion in state and local taxes, and yet it is being singled out.
“Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not,” he asked.
Iger said Disney has plans to invest $17 billion in Florida over the next 10 years.
Iger noted that Disney is not the only company operating in a special district. He said there are over 2,000 such districts, created to encourage business. One is occupied by Daytona Speedway, another by The Villages, a larger retirement community.
“if the goal is leveling the playing field in the uniform application of the law or government oversight of special districts needs to occur or be applied to all special districts,” he said. “There's also a false narrative that we have been fighting to protect tax breaks as part of this. But in fact we are the largest taxpayer in Central Florida.”
Iger noted that Disney has had a “terrific” relationship with the state for 50 years.
“While it is easy to say that the Reedy Creek special district that was established for us over 50 years ago benefited us, it is misleading to not also consider how much Disney benefited the state of Florida,” Iger said.
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.